• Fri. Dec 1st, 2023

The brightest in 9 billion years

The brightest in 9 billion years

Artist’s impression of a quasar. Credit: Artist illustration: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. Da Silva

Scientists have observed the X-ray emission of the brightest quasar ever recorded in the last 9 billion years of cosmic history. This quasar, abbreviated as SMSS J114447.77-430859.3 or J1144, provides new insights into the inner workings of quasars and their interactions with the universe around them. reported their findings Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Located about 9.6 billion light-years from Earth in a galaxy somewhere between the Centaurus and Hydra constellations, J1144 shines 100,000 billion times brighter than the Sun. Compared to other equally luminous objects, this quasar’s proximity to Earth gave astronomers an opportunity to gain insight. black hole Powering the quasar and the surrounding environment.

A postdoctoral researcher at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP), Dr. The study was led by Elias Kammun and Sophie Igoe, Ph.D. candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE).

Quasars are some of the brightest and most distant objects in the known universe, powered by gas collapsing into a supermassive black hole. They can be described as very luminous active galactic nuclei (AGN) that emit large amounts of electromagnetic radiation observable at radio, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and X-ray wavelengths. J1144 was first observed in visible wavelengths by the Skymapper Southern Survey (SMSS) in 2022.

For this study, the researchers combined observations from several space observatories: the Erosita instrument at the Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG) Observatory, the ESA XMM-Newton Observatory, NASANuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (Nustar), NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory.

The team used data from four observatories to measure the temperature of the X-rays emitted by the quasar. They found this temperature to be about 350 million Kelvin, which is 60,000 times the temperature of the Sun’s surface. The team found that the mass of the black hole at the center of the quasar is 10 billion times the mass of the Sun, and that it is growing at a rate on the order of 100 solar masses per year.

The X-ray luminosity from this source varies on a time scale of a few days, which is not normally seen in quasars with black holes residing in J1144. A typical timescale for the evolution of a black hole of this size is on the order of months or years. Observations also showed that when part of the gas is swallowed by the black hole, some of the gas is ejected in the form of super-strong winds, injecting large amounts of energy into the host galaxy.

The lead author of the paper, Dr. “We were very surprised that no previous X-ray observatory had observed this source, despite its tremendous power,” says Kammun.

He adds, “Similar quasars are usually seen at much greater distances, so they appear much fainter, and we see them as they were when the universe was only 2-3 billion years old. J1144 is a very rare source because it is so bright and so close to Earth (though still at a great distance!), giving us a unique view of what such powerful quasars look like.

“A new monitoring campaign of this source will begin in June this year, which may reveal more surprises from this unique source.”

Reference: “First X-ray Look at SMSS J114447.77-430859.3: The Brightest Quasar in the Last 9 Gyr” ES Kammun, Z Ego, JM Miller, AC Fabian, MT Reynolds, A Merloni, D Barrett, E Nardini, PO Petrucci , E Picconcelli, S Barnier, J Buchner, T Dwelly, I Grotova, M Krumpe, T Liu, K Nandra, A Rau, M Salvato, T Urrutia, J Wolf, 3 April 2023, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stad952

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